By Nicolas Mendoza | 09.09.11 | 1:59 pm
Immigrant rights activists are condemning Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal for appointing Phil Kent, spokesperson for the restrictionist group Americans for Immigration Control, to a seat on a government board created under the state’s new immigration law. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports:
Kent’s critics have started a petition drive to oust him from the Immigration Enforcement Review Board. Started by Steve Golden of the Young Democrats of Georgia, the petition calls Kent a “nativist” who uses “intense racist imagery to convey his terrible beliefs.”
As of Thursday afternoon, the petition had attracted more than 1,800 signatures. Golden said he plans to present them to Deal. A spokesman for Deal declined to comment Thursday. Kent dismissed the petition as a “fundraising tool” for one of his other critics, the Southern Poverty Law Center, which he calls a “radical left-wing group.”
Kent’s board has been attracting controversy since last Friday, when Deal announced Kent and the other six men who have been appointed to serve on the panel. That same day, the SPLC condemned Kent’s appointment. The SPLC has long labeled the organization for which Kent is the national spokesman – Americans for Immigration Control – a hate group.
The Anti-Defamation League is pointing to columns written by Kent which bemoan the growing number of non-white people in America as evidence that he should be removed from his new job:
In one column regarding estimates that minorities could overtake the white population by 2050, Kent wrote: “What will be the values and ideas of a multicultural America? What will it mean to be white after ‘whiteness’ no longer defines the cultural mainstream?” Kent also predicted “many whites ‘will flee into whiteness.’ They will move to where other fair-skinned brethren are to retain their identity — nostalgically yearning for an American authenticity where everyone speaks English.”
According to Media Matters, Kent at one point accused President Barack Obama of being a ”dangerous, anti-white multiculturalist.” Before working for Americans for Immigration Control, Kent was a press secretary for the late U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond.
Under Georgia’s new immigration law, which went into effect on August 1, the review board hears complaints from citizens about whether the law is being enforced by all relevant state and municipal government agencies. It has the power to subpoena witnesses, write new regulations and penalize officials, with punishments including “revocation of qualified local government status, loss of state appropriated funds, and a monetary fine of not… more than $5,000.00.” The intent of the board is to prevent the emergence of so-called “sanctuaries” for undocumented immigrants, a common fear of conservatives and restrictionist groups.
The board is also being criticized — for being composed exclusively of white men — by the head of Georgia’s Legislative Black Caucus, State Sen. Emanuel Jones (D-Decatur). The governor appointed three of the board members, including Kent, and the lieutenant governor and state House speaker each chose two.
Although two provisions of the Georgia immigration law were blocked by a federal judge pending a decision on the constitutionality of the “papers, please” laws by higher courts, other parts of the law have already gone into effect. These include a provision criminalizing applying to a job with a false I.D., punishable by up to 15 years in jail.